Jenn Brown's blog

Movies this Week: Cinemapocalypse, Shorts, Extract and So Much More


In the Loop

I hope you all are rested up, because Austin is exploding with film events this week. Between Cinemapocalypse and two red carpets, including one world premiere, it's as close to film-geek heaven as possible without a film festival.

Opening This Week

My top two favorite films open this week, District 9 and In the Loop. I'd be hard pressed to say which was my favorite, because they're such different films. Sci-fi fans will go nuts for District 9, which cunningly mixes aliens with evil corporation and a corporate stooge whose life gets turned upside down. The explosive third act will make fanboys and girls go wild, and it's sure to become a classic. Check out our group review.

In the Loop (pictured above), a British political satire, rips politicos to shreds with caustic humor as power-hungry assistant secretaries and their assistants battle it out and ultimately prove that funny can be smart. Scathingly smart. Torchwood: Children of Earth fans who were impressed with Peter Capaldi as the quiet career bureaucrat will be shocked and amused to see that character's polar opposite in Malcolm Tucker, the foulest director of communication you can imagine. Don't worry if some of the unfamiliar accents aren't easy to understand with the rapid fire delivery; this is one you'll want to watch more than once (a lot like District 9).

Review: Thirst



The Fantastic Fest/AICN Presents series of special screenings leading up to the festival at the end of September is surpassing last year's screenings, with Deadgirl, The Collector and Chan-wook Park's latest, Thirst (Bakjwi), in the last two weeks alone.

In Thirst, Sang-hyeon is a man of intense faith who subjects himself to an experiment with unexpected results. Starring Kang-ho Song (The Host, The Good, the Bad, the Weird), and an unsettling Ok-vin Kim, Thirst completely twists vampire mythology into an exotic tale of domestic horror with elements of faith, taboo, family and the inevitable consequences of giving in to forbidden desires.

Fantastic Fest Training #1: Beer and Sleep


Devin Beer BucketsEarlier this year, some local film geeks started a running joke. In the post-SXSW glow, we brainstormed ways to train for Fantastic Fest. It was a good excuse to drink, but it seems like something more people might be interested in. So to help you prepare for arguably the most fantastic and festive of film fests, I'll be passing on some sage advice, and looking for some from you.

The two fundamental areas requiring training revolve around sleep and alcohol, although there are more areas of concern. Last year, some events lasted past 3 am, and drinking at Fantastic Fest is a given. Between the table-side service and parties, the alcohol flowed. Many beers at the Ritz in the last few months have been consumed all in the spirit of "Fantastic Fest training."

Me, I'm not much of a drinker. I'm that person known to throw beer away because it's been sitting in the fridge for too long. I don't drink much at festivals because, when it comes alcohol, I'm a lightweight. So in recent months, I've been indulging in a beer or two at Alamo screenings to work up some semblance of tolerance.

Sleep is something scarce for most Fantastic Festers. The debates and karaoke last until the wee smalls, and even dawn. Sitting through four, five ... even six films every day for eight days adds up. Non-VIP badgeholders need to pick up their daily seating tickets in the morning or risk missing out on preferred shows, with some screenings sold out by 10 am. Full-on Festers might get four hours a sleep most nights.

'District 9' Director and Star Chat at Alamo


District 9

[Warning: some of this content may spoil the film for you. Caution is advised.]

This has been a good summer for sci-fi fans, with three outstanding, classic style sci-fi films to hit screens across the country: Star Trek, Moon and now District 9, which opens on Friday. Ain't it Cool News hosted a special screening of District 9 with director Neill Blomkamp and star Sharlto Copley that featured one of the longest, and arguably one of the best Q&As in Austin in a long, long time.

Both Blomkamp and Copley were willing to answer questions for almost an hour. With most Q&As running 15 minutes, this was a rare treat. No one in the standing-room-only crowd left when the end credits started, and the first to leave the theater only missed the last 2-3 questions, and not just because those asking questions were rewarded with a commemorative t-shirt. One lucky audience member, who asked the final question, received an autographed rendering of the alien ship.

Set in the Johannesburg, South Africa area 20 years after an alien vessel has stopped over the city, District 9 is the story of a corporate stooge responsible for overseeing a mass eviction of the aliens, pejoratively known as "prawns" because of their resemblance to crustaceans.

Emily Hagins Screens 'The Retelling' in Austin


The RetellingAustin director Emily Hagins hosted a packed private screening of her second feature, The Retelling, on Sunday afternoon. The Retelling is a thriller that unfolds as a boy uncovers old family secrets when his family stays with his grandfather for the summer.

In a brief Q&A session after the screening, Hagins thanked everyone for their support and participation, and said she was submitting the film to festivals. She declined to mention which, in the event the film was rejected.

Hagins, 16, wrote and directed her first feature, the horror film Pathogen, at age 11. She received a Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grant for the film. Emily and her mom Megan were the subjects of a recent documentary, Zombie Girl, which premiered at Fantastic Fest and has also played Slamdance and San Diego Comic-Con.

When asked what her next film would be, Hagins said she's planning a comedy, and that the script has already been started.

Public screenings of The Retelling are not planned at this time.

Romero Zombie Film Tops Second Wave of Fantastic Fest Titles


Fantastic Fest 2007

The next wave of Fantastic Fest films has been announced today. With one more round to go, one has to wonder just how they're going to top this announcement. There was already an announcement last week about the Uwe Boll Totally Awesome Videogames Filmmaking Competition presented by G4's Attack of the Show and Fantastic Fest.

But even more amazing is that George Romero himself will be bringing his latest zombie film, Survival of the Dead, to the fest. The film focuses on an island where those who want to kill every zombie battle those trying to protect family members until a cure can be found. Romero's Diary of the Dead opened Fantastic Fest in 2007. Having Romero at Fantastic Fest is a huge deal, it's a bit mind boggling to think of how they can top that.

Among the 19 films, there are four world premieres from around the globe. Macabre, an Indonesian cautionary tale of a kindness repaid with a night of unspeakable horror (dir. The Mo Brothers, 2009). First Squad (dir. Yoshiharu Ashino, 2009, Japan) is a WWII occult tale of Nazis raising the spirits of their ancestors to fight, and a psychic Russian teen who may be the only hope of stopping them. Down Terrace (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2009, UK) is a dark comedy following a family of dysfunctional crooks trying to save the failing family business. Lastly, Mandrill (dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, 2009, Chile), centers on a young hit man bent for revenge.

Movies this Week: Julie, Julia, Trains and Getaways



Next week will be absolutely crazy, with two red-carpet events in four days. But we've already had a red carpet in Austin this week, for Bandslam, which Debbie will tell you about soon. There's plenty this week in theaters to keep you busy.

Opening this Week
Let's just say that Julie & Julia is one film that will leave you salivating. The Alamo Drafthouse had one feast scheduled that sold out in 20 minutes, so they've added two more (8/10-12). Check out our group review, where Jette and Jenn's take on Julie & Julia.

A Perfect Getaway is a serviceable chiller from the man who brought you Below and Pitch Black. It's flawed, but worthwhile. For more, check out my review.

O'Horten, Little Ashes, and The Cove all open at the Arbor today. Unfortunately, we weren't able to review The Cove prior to release, but it's gotten a lot of positive attention. Little Ashes, with Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, wasn't available either. But you can read about the trains and life transitions that make up O'Horten in my review.

Review: A Perfect Getaway


A Perfect GetawayA honeymoon in paradise is a newlywed's dream ... unless you're newlyweds in writer/director David Twohy's latest chiller, A Perfect Getaway.

The needy Cydney (Milla Jovovich) is ecstatically in love with Cliff (Steve Zahn), as they explore Hawaii. Their bliss is disturbed when they encounter a suspiciously pushy couple (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) trying to hitch a ride, and shortly after learn of a double murder in Oahu, from where they'd just come. Unsettled and with only sporadic cell reception, a chance encounter with braggart Nick (Timothy Olyphant) seems to be a welcome salve, only to find out Nick didn't mention his girlfriend, Gina (Kiele Sanchez).

Twohy, who wrote and directed the underrated Below and Pitch Black, has a fondness for twists, and has so many red herrings in the script that it includes a discussion about them. Combined with the tendency for characters to adopt a threatening gaze, it seemed like it would quickly fall into the conventional traps of most slasher flicks.

Review: O'Horten



On the eve of his retirement, a train engineer's life starts to derail when he stops following his usual routines. O'Horten, director/writer Bent Hamer's tale of the limbo of transition, is a slow simmer that doesn't even approach a boil, and is not likely to appeal to most audiences.

Odd Horten (Baard Owe) has an orderly, simple and lonely life until he reluctantly allows coworkers to invite him to a party, only to get stuck outside. From that moment on, everything seems out of control. Through most of the film, Odd Horten has things happen - and done - to him, yet most of them are relatively ordinary with uneven elements of the absurd, until he finally starts taking action to stop being a victim of circumstance.

Bicycle Film Festival in Austin This Week


Bicycle Film FestivalThe ninth annual Bicycle Film Festival is coming to Austin this week: Wednesday, August 5 through Sunday, August 9. This 39-city international touring film fest celebrates bicycles and the people who ride them with many short films, a few features and lots of related events, such as an art show and a bike polo tournament.

On Friday there is a benefit for the Yellow Bike Project, an all-volunteer effort "dedicated to providing human-powered transportation for the people of Austin, running a community bike shop, and educating kids and adults."

A Texas film is among the shorts screening at the fest: Ultra Cool Texas Emo Hipsters Ride Fixed by director Donny Hall. Most of the festival films are screening at 501 Studios.

Festival passes are $27, with tickets available at individual events. Visit The Bicycle Film Festival site for more details.

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